On the 27th of September, Azerbaijani armed forces began a violent and unexpected attack on Nagorno-Karabakh. Since then, the conflict has escalated for over three weeks and Azerbaijan, helped by its ally Turkey, has intensified the aggression into the territory of the Republic of Artsakh. International media have accounted for the Azerbaijani targeting of civilian infrastructures such as hospitals or private homes in their air raids. The intensified usage of drones and other advanced methods of modern warfare has created a serious humanitarian crisis, with a large part of the Artsakh population being forced to leave their homeland and seek refuge in nearby Armenia.
Unfortunately, conflict is nothing new in this area of the Southern Caucasus. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and following a decade of discrimination and attacks, the predominantly ethnically Armenian population of what was then called “Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast”, voted on a self-determination referendum to detach from Azerbaijan and join the newly formed Republic of Armenia. A peaceful transition was not achieved and up until 1994 a war was fought between Armenians and the Azerbaijanis, who refused to recognise the right of self determination for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. A ceasefire was agreed in 1994, but long-lasting peace has never been achieved, with frequent small-scale border skirmishes. For years, this area became a so-called “frozen conflict”, where the international community was unwilling to provide a solution. However, the local population have struggled for over 20 years with the likeliness of violence re-emerging and with the drawbacks of living in an unrecognised state.
The current war, however, has exceeded by far the level of violence and casualties from previous small-scale battles near the border. The unjustified aggression by Azerbaijan has gone beyond military targets, and civilians are paying the largest price in this war. At this point, EFAy demands that both sides respect the ceasefire agreed on the 10th of October, and re-established on the 18th of October, and return to the negotiating table. EFAy also welcomes the initiatives by third parties to facilitate peace talks. Respect of human rights of civilians on both sides of the border should be a key priority. Military confrontation cannot be the solution for the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.